A few days ago, I got back from a short road trip through Eastern Germany. We had decided to rent one of those iconic VW buses and hit the road, yoga mat, guitar and back pack on board. With an old bus like this, the journey really becomes the destination because, well, you’re just not moving any faster than 50mph, a little more when you’re going downhill!
In between, we posted our locations on facebook. If you followed those, it became obvious we weren’t going far and we certainly weren’t visiting much sought-out travel destinations. One of our friends commented in jest: “ Wow, you guys sure get around!”
It was a comment like thousands of others on social media but it did get me thinking: Why do we always seem to have to go far away for it to be “postworthy” or “something to write home about”? Is it because having money to travel is a status symbol? Is yoga in Bali more liberating than Yoga in Berlin? Do we need to escape our everyday lives so badly that only tens of thousands of air miles will do the trick? Maybe it is a combination of all of these things. But here are a few reasons why it doesn’t always have to be palm trees and sandy beaches to be a great yoga practice.
Ok, let’s check out of Hotel Faraway for a moment, shall we? Have you ever practiced yoga on the beach? It can be a wonderful experience, agreed! But, it can also be a bit of a pain in the …, um, wrists for example. The uneven ground offers very little support for prolonged arm balances or even a solid Down Dog. I often found myself patting the sand into the right shape, so as to be able to achieve some sort of balance or stability in the pose. It must have looked rather weird, as a small group of people started to stand up to see what I was doing! Additionally, if there is any wind, you’re constantly busy unfolding or rearranging the mat while trying to keep at least some of the sand off the mat or out of your eyes. Kinda hard to stay focused, while battling the elements but, hey, some of us, do enjoy the extra challenge I suppose!
Same Same, not different
I’ve been lucky enough to practice yoga in some beautiful, lush and green surroundings – sometimes. It’s nice practicing in warm weather, where my body is more forgiving of the cold climates I have subjected it to and my heart and soul seem to grow in size. As much as I can, I try to get out there and do so. However, if you, like me, live in a climate zone whose summer temperatures are a hit-or-miss game and whose winters seem to last for-roughly-ever, you might not often have this opportunity. Add the fact that we only have a certain amount of vacation days per year and we realize, “oh, well, yoga at home it is”. Yes, the cold is an added challenge. After all, Yoga was created in the humid-warm climate of India. But, is the Yoga itself any different? Are people practicing in far-off lands automatically happier than we are? Are the benefits of their yoga practice greater than ours? Hmm, probably not, because to quote the unbeatable Jon Kabat-Zinn, “wherever you go, there you are”…and all that baggage you brought just gets packed into the suitcase along with your sunscreen and Deet.
If nothing else, Yoga is whatever we bring to it. The more honest we can be with ourselves, the more our Yoga practice will be able to break us open and help us unlearn all the stupid myths we either were told or have been telling ourselves for years. What could be better than making this journey of discovery in a place you feel safe in? In fact, practicing in our own country or surroundings allows us to trust and, therefore, to let go more easily. Think about it: There is no hassle to organize shelter or to find a hot shower and you won’t be wondering whether the street food may or may not give you a stomach bug. It’s just you, your Yoga and a hot shower whenever you need it.
So when you find yourself staring at Instagram pictures of yoginis in bikinis again, grab your mat (and a beloved girlfriend!) and find a new studio (hot yoga anybody?) or engage in some heat-building Kundalini warm-ups beforehand and get your own hot yoga on! Maybe make a weekend of it and hit the road to some nearby places. You’ll be surprised what you’ll discover just around the corner.